Copyrighting your Tunes - is it necessary??

Legally, the act of creation is copyright in itself. There are many ways to prove you were first. Historically, a sealed postmarked letter with a copy of the tune inside used to be the poor man's copyright. Today, text in the body of an email is date-stamped, and holds up in court as evidence.

Publishing a tune in a book, newspaper or recording it on a CD gives further dated evidence of an ownership claim. Similarly, registering with an government agency for copyright, or private organization which distributes performance or mechanical royalties all leave dated evidence of your claim.

Registering with SOCAN (the Canadian agency that collects and distributes performance royalties) or CMRRA (the Canadian agency that issues mechanical licenses) is only necessary if a tune has been recorded and/or is getting radio/television airplay - or is being performed by musicians in registered venues. Bigger venues are registered with SOCAN and pay a small portion of the gate back to SOCAN - work forms have to be filled in by the performers in order to get that money redistributed to the composers.

Composers take note - most agencies hold revenues in trust for at least three years after a performance or recording is made (i.e.: you can register after you know money is due). Similarly reciprocal agreements between agencies in different countries mean that if you pursue your claim, you should get paid eventually.

For more detailed information go to Copyrights, A Canadian Perspective

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last update 11/3/04